Courtesy of Sony Pictures
Just when you thought superhero films had played every narrative card in the cliché handbook, along comes Sony’s animated “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” to completely revitalize a character whose been retooled, revamped, and reset one too many times. Marvel made the correct decision in allowing Spidey to cross over into Disney's Cinematic Universe (lord knows we didn't need "The Amazing Spider-Man 3") and while that live action franchise is alive and kicking, their latest dive into what is called “The Multiverse” is fresh in its perspective and rules on so many levels.
The ideals and formula is what gives “Verse” a new set of superhero mechanics, and with Phil Lord (“The Lego Movie”) taking over writing duties, the self-referential “Deadpool” style of humor is intact from start to finish. The animation, too, is polished and pops off the screen with a fuzzy comic book aesthetic; complete with thought bubbles manifesting out of thin air and grainy lines that feels like you’re literally watching one of your childhood relics come to life.
Another key reason to revisit the Spidey universe - aside from watching the gorgeous animation on display - is to rightfully give the spotlight to fan favorite Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) who was petitioned by the online community to take over the live action franchise. He wasn’t granted those merits, but he shines in “Spider Verse” - in which the character exists as one of several iterations of the web crawler within the same universe.
That’s right, there isn’t just a singular crusader swinging around New York City, there is infinite Spidey’s, all complete with their own timelines, and superpowers. And so when one Spider-Man/Peter Parker tragically dies, another one steps in to take his place. I understand how that ideology could be confusing, but Lord makes sure to give the narrative time to gestate, and not weigh us down with boring routine origin-logistics. It also doesn’t forget that Miles is a kid stepping into his new identity as Spider-Man and the filmmakers channel all those emotions and responsibility that stem from acquiring spidey senses, and sticky fingers.
“Into The Spider-Verse” is somehow both the nerdiest and most inviting superhero film in a long time. This is an origin story for viewers who didn’t think stumbling down this rabbit hole again would prove palpable. But studios often forget the most basic thrill of this genre is that anyone can become a superhero and “Into The Spider-Verse” hilariously stretches that idea to crazy lengths.
From a flashy opening title treatment, to a color-coded climax that presents itself in a irreverent type of way, this is clearly not the Spider-Man flick audiences are used to seeing. Matter of fact, the filmmakers have no trouble reminding you of all the Spider-Men’s you have seen before, as the start of the film rip-roaringly picks apart all the issues fans had with previous films (including that obnoxious dance scene from “Spider-Man 3”).
As mentioned, Peter Parker has been tossed aside in favor of Morales, who is bitten by a radioactive spider and entrusted to stop the looming Kingin (Liev Schreiber) from using his nuclear supercollider to annihilate several alternate timelines and killing every single soul on the planet.
With great power comes...
Lucky for Miles, he’s not alone. Kingpin’s towering inferno of a machine rips little holes in the space-time continuum pulling Spider-Animals, Spider-Women, and Spider-Robotics from other dimensions into Miles’ world (If only the “Cloverfield” franchise could execute on this level). Chief among the crop of new faces is a slightly obese, divorced, 40 year-old Peter Parker whose story is an interesting contrast from the usual Spidey fodder. Voiced by “New Girl’s” Jake Johnson, this Parker is a fascinating study for Miles, and it’s boatloads of fun watching them both grow in their respective roles. The duo's inaugural subway meet up sets the tone for how stylish directors' Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodeny Rothman's primed action sequences are going to look, and they never disappoint.
But if superhero movies (and action set pieces) have to look a certain way, that means superheroes shouldn't feel ashamed to live in their own skin either. In other words, “Into the Spider-Verse” delivers on the promise that anyone can be Spider-Man. More importantly, he doesn’t have to be white. He can be black or, in the case of the Nicolas Caged voiced Spider-Man Noir, black and white. He can also be a she: case-in-point Spider-Gwen (Halee Steinfield), or, and this is my favorite bit, a freaking pig (John Mulaney making waves as your new favorite swine hero).
Each of these characters possess their own morals and strengths, making up the “Spider-Gang” who rival the Avengers and boasts on of my favorite experiences watching a film all year. Even if the second act gets loose in terms of drawn out climaxes and discoveries that struggle to feel earned, “Spider-Verse” family like dynamic rises' above those minor flaws. It’s also a reminder about how the mightiest heroes are the ones who understand that it’s okay being different.